Sergei Filin, artistic director for the famous Bolshoi Theater in Moscow was attacked by an unknown assailant on Friday, who threw acid into his face. Filin is suffering from severe burns and may lose his eye sight.
Filin was attacked at around midnight on Friday as he left his car outside his home in central Moscow. After throwing sulfuric acid into his face, the masked assailant then fled the scene.
Filin, a 42-year-old former dancer, now artistic director of the Bolshoi Theater, suffered third-degree burns to his face and eyes. He is being treated at a hospital in Moscow where doctors are hoping to save his eyesight.
According to a hospital spokesperson, Filin is “in a satisfactory condition, in our burns center, not intensive care.”
36th Moscow city hospital chief physician Alexander Mitichkin told Interfax that "Sergei Filin has had a surgery. Today is the first post-surgery day, and he cannot use his eyes although he can see. He will stay blindfolded for a while."
He said that Filin's eyesight would be evaluated only two weeks later. "Sergei Filin is receiving initial therapy. As a rule, sutures are removed on the sixth or seventh day but it is premature to speak about his eyesight," he said.
Filin will reportedly need plastic surgery and his hair may fall out as it was also affected by the acid.
Once his condition improves, the theater's supervisory board has decided to sent Filin to a foreign clinic for treatment, possibly in Germany or Israel, as these are the best options.
According to Ekaterina Novikova, a spokesperson for the Bolshoi Theater, Filin will need at least six months to completely recover from the incident and that his position will remain vacant during this time, as any replacement must first be approved by Filin.
Novikova told Channel One that Filin has received threats from anonymous callers in the past. She said that “We never imagined that a war for roles – not for real estate or for oil – could reach this level of crime.”
Anatoly Iksanov, the Bolshoi general director believes the attack was linked to Filin's work at the theatre, saying “He is a man of principle and never compromised.”
“If he believed that this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down.”
According to Filin's mother, the threats began on December 31 and that his Facebook page and email account hacked shortly before the attack. She said that on Friday, someone slashed his car tires. She further said that someone has been calling Filin repeatedly, but keeping silent when he answered the phone.
Filin himself said, "This is linked to my work – someone doesn't like that I'm successfully leading the Bolshoi Theater."
The Bolshoi Theater, taken after the latest renovation work in 2011.
Police are convinced that Filin's professional activity is the primary reason for the attack and security forces and investigating, saying that the assailant, if convicted, could face up to eight years in jail for inflicting willful damage to health.
Filin, a former Bolshoi ballet star himself, was appointed to the position of artistic director in March 2011 and there was reportedly fierce rivalry for the position.
When the Bolshoi Theater reopened in October 2011 after a six-year reconstruction project, the opening was apparently surrounded by scandals. It was also delayed several times due to construction problems.
There was also a huge row over the sacking of a ballet superstar Nikolay Tsiskaridze from the theater. He apparently said that he had not expected such poor results from six years of repair work, costing over $1 billion. He reportedly criticized the acoustics, and the makeup and rehearsal rooms.
Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky expressed his indignation at the attack but when visiting him at the hospital on Saturday, he was amazed at how well Filin was handling the situation.
"Much to my astonishment, we spoke about artistic plans and current ballet management instead of problems and Sergei's condition. Sergei's courage amazed me," he told Interfax.
"I would never have thought that artistic differences may take such forms. I wholeheartedly sympathize with Sergei and his family. This is a terrible crime," he said.
Saying that the country was doing its best to help Filin recover, he said, "[Vice-Premier Olga] Golodets personally controls the case," Medinsky said.
The Australian is reporting that police have arrested a suspect in the attack. Grainy CCTV footage had shown the attacker fleeing the scene across a snow-covered car park.